Flat by Ashmae Hoiland. This is a piece Ashmae made from a photo I sent her for a new body project she is working on.
I went streaking for the first time this month. It’s taken a long time to get myself to this point. In truth, it wasn’t really the first time, but streaking at four and under doesn’t count when playing truth and dare and the question is, “have you ever?”
And I hadn’t.
I suppose I didn’t hate my body, but probably from a few years past my preschool streaking I felt bashful about it; like there was something lacking about from the skin I live in. It intensified with age. ( I’ve even written about this before.) Speckled with moles, pocked with skin stretch scars, and a back size that never seems to fit into store sizes; I am one of a kind in my spots, streaks, and smallness. Long forehead, dusty-dry skin, and a slight chest: the list goes on. Whose doesn’t? Peculiarities, idiosyncrasies, or vulnerabilities? Maybe a little bit of all of the above.
In an effort to lay shame and sheepishness bare this year is the year I elected to bare all of myself, even if only for a few moments with a giggling group of friends at a remote retreat. I had been so ashamed of what I was not that I had forgotten all that I was. I wasn’t flat or petite or stretched or unsculpted, I just was. Me. Stripped down to my skin.
So it was with all of us. Just a bunch of girls stretched into women, our skin worn and worked, and wondrous in living.
I felt free and unencumbered. Not just by the clothes I had left rolled up in my room, but by the ability to set them aside and step outside. Something I thought I could never do. But what did I have to prove, and who was my body for anyway? It isn’t to impress people with, though it’s nice my husband likes it. It certainly wasn’t made for criticism or cat calls. I love that it brought my two children into being. But really, it’s for me: to use, to live in and through, and love. It’s been the goodness delivery vehicle for my whole life, the skin that carried me upended through cartwheels, translated the first kiss on my lips and kept all my insides in when I thought they might crumble. It’s been so good to me. I am ready to be better to it. I am done waiting to be something more, somehow good enough to feel satisfied and free enough to be free in my skin. realized in the moment finally said, why not, I was enough.
“Who’s going streaking?” My friend peppered our group of middling women.
“I’m in,” I piqued. I wanted to do something I had never dared before. Somehow prove in wild action that I could. That maybe, maybe if a bunch of women could giddily set their clothes aside for a merry, fleshy run in their skin. Then maybe we could also strip off the words that burden us in our skin. I have plenty to let go of. We all do.
The dark of the evening wrapping around our derma. The mist from the ocean settled onto it.
I was surprised, I wasn’t cold. I was wonderful.
It felt like a rush, like freedom.